Book Mites

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday and I’m the one who who gets the goofy phone call.

The woman was quite pleasant and said several times that she was not complaining at all, but she thought we should know that our books had book mites. She said she was quite the bookworm and she knew for a fact that most books (particularly old ones) have mites and usually, she simply microwaves all of her books before she reads them.

Unfortunately, she hadn’t considered that our library books have RFID tags (aka, metal) in the back of the book and so, she managed to burn a hole through the back of the book. No problem, she said, she would pay for the book, but… what should she do with the next library book?

I asked her if she was sure it was our books that had mites? “Well, she said, “the mites are crawling up my arms.”

So back to the real reason for her call: how should she get rid of the mites in our library books since she couldn’t microwave them but she really wanted to read them. Uh… my brave answer: I have no idea!

Like any good librarian, I took her name and phone number and said I’d get back to her. After telling my nearest colleague about this conversation and chortling for several minutes, we began discussing some of possibilities and searching the web … but what if they’re not book mites at all? What if the lady has bedbugs? (They are coming back, you know.) What if it’s some other kind of bug? What if she has just regular lice and doesn’t realize it? Sigh.

After a careful search (well, the 4:45 in the afternoon kind of search)… it appears that book mites do exist. They do not, however, eat books. They eat glue and they love dark places. Were they crawling up our patron’s arm? I doubt it. Book mites (also known as book lice) love dark, moist places. They are not fond of human skin, hair, or anything else. The only way to really get rid of book mites is to remove any and all humidity. Good luck with that. One article did mention that one could put the books in a freezer (at 0 degrees) for four hours.

So, I dutifully called our patron back and gave her the bad news: low humidity, light, and maybe a freezer. “Well, she said, I think I’ll put them in a plastic bag and try the freezer method. Thanks so much.”

I guess I’ll have to warn the Circulation Department … if we get any frozen books in the book drop, we’ll know the culprit. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see the microwaved book and its RFID tag burned through the back cover!



  1. Liz Said:

    You mean you’ve never seen them? I’ve known about them since I was a kid. And I recently discovered that they do indeed come out of the books since I had them on my desk during a particularly humid stretch. I imagine they came from a stack of books on one corner of the desk. The microwave idea – or an oven – makes all sorts of sense IMO.

    • Elizabeth Said:

      They are particulary troubling to libraries with computers (which is every library now-a-days.) They can migrate to the computer area and feed on the dust in the keyboards and even live inside the computers themselves. Many patrons will see them crawling on screens.

  2. NLBizApamn Said:

    NL International

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